This past year my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by retracing our steps and revisiting places that were part of our courtship and eventual engagement and marriage.  We decided to visit the restaurant where our engagement dinner was held.  The restaurant is located within the confines of a picturesque state park known for its beautiful waterfalls and grand vistas.  This venue is in a very remote area, so finding hotel accommodations within a short distance was a challenge.  Like most 21st century shoppers, I used the internet to find a hotel and thought I had found the perfect place.  It was billed as a “resort and conference center” with newly renovated rooms with “all the amenities”.  The clubhouse boasted of great views and great food, so we booked our stay and planned our trip.

Once we arrived at our hotel accommodations, we found that the website descriptions and pictures did not provide a clear or accurate description of what we could expect.  Using the words “resort” and “conference center” created an expectation that reality failed to meet.  The best way to describe the hotel is a 70’s era travel lodge with the door facing the parking lot and resembling something you’d find in a Quentin Tarantino film.  The “newly renovated” rooms featured a shower enclosure and Jacuzzi tub that was probably 20 years old, the carpet was well worn and musty.  The balcony was a wooden deck that ran the length of the building, and it was shared space with plastic deck chairs.  The walls, windows, and doors offered little or no soundproofing, so if your neighbors were on the deck you could clearly hear every word.  The furniture was outdated and uncomfortable, and there was little or no space for your luggage.  And the clubhouse and restaurant were older with the food you would typically find at a small diner.  We stayed one night, checked out and left town a day early, and booked accommodations at a hotel chain that is known for brand consistency and continuity. We felt duped, misled and disappointed. The hotel was clearly over-promised and under-delivered.

Dangerous Precedent


Over the course of your life, you have more than likely experienced a similar scenario.  You make dinner reservations at a highly touted restaurant and go into it with high expectations.  You arrive early or on time, but your table isn’t ready, the maître d is churlish, the restaurant is loud, the cutlery isn’t clean,the server seems to forget you after you have been seated, your appetizers arrive shortly before your main course is served, and your entrée isn’t hot or a good cut of meat.  In this scenario what is the likelihood you will give this restaurant repeat business or recommend it to your friends?  The restaurant was clearly over-promised and under-delivered.  They offered you “all sizzle, but no steak.”

This same situation often plays out in business relationships too.  An organization or Business Development professional markets or sells that they offer a good or service, but you find out that they are offering more “sizzle than steak”.  Too often an organization may fall into the practice willing of telling the customer what they want to hear just to close the deal.  The job is to sell, and those negotiating the business engagement will let the rest of the organization worry about meeting the schedule or providing the solution.  What the organization doesn’t tell the customer is that they lack the resources to meet their deadlines and commitments, the customer must chase you for answers, or they find out that you aren’t able to provide the level of service and customer satisfaction you promised.  But then the company refuses to acknowledge that they haven’t performed well, or they tell the client it was just an abbreviation, and it won’t happen next time.

Unexpected Consequences


All too often Senior Leaders fail to understand the consequences of over-promising and under-delivering. Your organization gains an unwanted reputation that is difficult to overcome.  MBO Partners provides this solid advice to Small Businesses trying to achieve growth; “Clients want to hire you because they have a problem they need to be solved. This assignment may have certain requirements such as a strict budget, specific technical needs, or a tight deadline. When you set expectations too high and are unable to deliver on what you say you can do, you not only put the client’s project at risk, but you put your personal reputation in jeopardy as well.”


Three Key Things to Consider:

1.      Be honest with yourself and your organization on what you can achieve with the resources you have.  If there is a gap, then acknowledge it and don’t ask your team to pursue this business until you have fixed and addressed the issues.  If there is something that hinders growth, then come up with a solution so clients and employees don’t get frustrated and disengage.

2.      Don’t expect your customers to take risks if you are unwilling to.  Many organizations will try to convince their clients to give them a chance to learn on the fly or stretch their team, hoping that they can meet the deadline or flesh out the process they have never done before.  But these same organizations won’t take the same risks with their supply base, new markets or strategic partners.

3.      Don’t let your needs for immediate revenue and growth dictate your willingness to make commitments you are unlikely to meet.  If you knowingly enter a business relationship with the full knowledge there is a good chance you won’t meet the project deadlines, then don’t do it. Your customers will respect and trust you if you think the timeline is too aggressive or not achievable.  Letting your competition over commitment and under deliver will pay dividends on the next project.  

If you position your brand as delivering a premium service that requires a higher price, then you need to deliver on that promise otherwise word will spread and brand value will decrease.  Author, educator and businessman Stephen Covey put it well; “Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  Trust is hard to build and retain, but once you have lost it, it is very difficult to recreate.


ATG has the industry experience and knowledge to jointly assess your organization and determine if you are over-committing and under-delivering.  We offer an impartial 3rd party review to assist your organization with defining where you can make brand promises that allow you to meet your commitments.  Contact us today to discuss how we can aid you with delivering accelerated tangible growth.

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